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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 05-28-06, 08:52 PM   #1
!!Comatoa$ted
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Limiting factors, Re: Car free lifestyle

So most of here are probably of the same mind. We like having bikes as our main source of transportation, and don't have too much of a problem not having a car. I am sure that we all have different reasons and opinions on why we should be or are car free. Be it money beliefs or losing the licence, whatever.

What do you see as some of the limiting factors that stack up against going car free? Reasons why one must drive a car to get around; I can think of one, and that is a disability of some sort that makes cycling an impossibility. Sure there may be some sort of transit system that accommodates the disabled, but to be able to retain some sense of freedom you may rather drive in such a case instead of having to rely on public transit.

Now I am not advocating using excuses to avoid getting rid of the car or seriously limiting its uses. I would like to see what the reasons are why one can't really reduce fuel dependency by not owning a car and using human power to get around. I can think of many reasons why one does not need a car and can get along fine, but I can't think of a lot that would truly stop one from getting rid of their car.

I am just trying to get a view of the other side, so to speak.
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Old 05-28-06, 11:00 PM   #2
tsl
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Let's see...

No air conditioning
Helmet might muss expensive hairdo
No ashtray
No CD changer
No place to plug in cell phone
No mirror to apply make-up
No heated seats
Weird looks from parking valet at restaurants
No air conditioning
No onboard navigation computer
No heater
No windshield wipers
Get wet in the rain, or sweaty under raingear (see: No air conditioning)
Have to buy expensive lycra bike outfits
Have to pedal the damned bike everywhere
Can't walk in goofy bike shoes
No trunk to hide junk when parked
Golf clubs don't fit in pannier
No air conditioning
No hook to hang dry cleaning
Clients not impressed when taken to lunch on a tandem
No back seat for "parking"
No gun rack
Doesn't hold a week's worth of groceries for a family of 12
No bike racks at Wal-Mart
Doesn't lock, blink the lights and beep by remote control
No air conditioning

How's that for a start?
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Old 05-28-06, 11:40 PM   #3
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The main problem with going car free is time. Call it lifestyle or demands from society, the fact is that you can cover 100 miles and accomplish 3 trips in a car in a day where a bike would need 3 to be as productive. Never mind commuting to work or school-- even stupid things like fixing the kitchen sink usually require multiple trips to the hardware store. If that store is 6 miles away, if you're like me and have to go there 3 times, that's 36 total miles. Tough to do on a bike but a cinch in a car.

While i don't believe society in general will be car free anytime soon, the one thing that would help move people in that direction would be if people were to slow down. I bet a lot more people could travel less and telecommute more if the work culture would allow it. A 4 day work week would allow people that extra day to run errands by bike. Unfortunately, I don't think anything of these things will happen voluntarily. We will be forced by a gasoline shortage... or gasoline rationing a la 1973.
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Old 05-29-06, 06:49 AM   #4
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What johdoh said

We as a society have become "instant" we want it and want it yesterday! and if poor prior planning gets in the way...well that is what cellphones and overnight packages are for and they are too slow in most cases.

We were having this discussion at work the other day how things have accelerated and no one seems to take the time to plan things out anymore. Our company's philosphy (when adhered to) is that an hour of planning can save over 40 manhours in the field. There are always going to be unforseen issues cropping up but you deal with or work around those. I know the feeling of starting a project at home then realizing I need something else to complete it. It is about 12-18 miles one way to my closest home center. Typically I make a list of everything I think I am going to need for a specific project including what I think may go wrong. If I miss something I hope I have what it takes in house to complete it. If not it won't get completed until the next scheduled town trip.

Aaron
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Old 05-29-06, 07:54 AM   #5
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The primary reason I was afraid of becoming car free was the perceived effort. I figured it would be hell on earth to have to pedal all that distance.

Now that I am actually car free, it isn't actually that hard The effort involved doesn't factor into it at all.

There are only really a few things that I find to be 'limiting factors' of being car-free:
1. Going long distances quickly (but then again, I have ALWAYS been able to plan around this)
2. Carrying heavy things (panniers and a BOB trailer carry almost everything I need)
3. Clothes (although I regularly wear SPD mountain bike shoes off the bike now, sometimes I need to get changed/cleaned up at my destination)
4. Getting wet (not as bad as I kept worrying about)

For me, the benefits far outweigh these minor inconveniences.
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Old 05-29-06, 10:48 AM   #6
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Time, winter, storage space.

There often isn't enough time to ride where you're going. For short distances, the time taken when you comapre a bike to a car are negligible. For anything past 5-6 miles, the time starts to make a difference. And, if you're going to the cottage for the weekend, forget about taking a bike. You'll need a whole day just to get there (if it's even possible to ride at all!)

Winter is cold, windy, wet, and did I mention cold? Sure, you can bike in the winter, but you need to plan ahead. You need special clothing, a bike set up to handle ice and snow, and a hearty disposition. With a car, it's easy to jump in wearing nothing but jeans and a sweater, and go where you need to.

Storage space on a bike is at a premium, not unlike a flight on the space shuttle. To do a week's worth of grocery shopping, you need a trailer or massive panniers. It's barely possible to bring home that new stereo system. Forget about hauling home all the dirt and flowers you need to start a garden in the spring. And your hot date Saturday night? I hope she's got a bike of her own...

I believe there is a place for both bikes and cars. Bikes are the perfect vehicles for short trips and commutes, where the distance is manageable and the load is relatively light. Cars are great for long distances, multiple passengers, and heavy loads. I think that if people would stick to this philosophy, we'd reduce the number of cars by a quarter, and probably more. In fact, I wonder if a study has ever been done on this:

On a typical 2 or 4 lane city street, how many cars have single occupants travelling less than 10 kilometers?

That would be interesting to know.
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Old 05-29-06, 11:24 AM   #7
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single occupants in cars---hee hee, in the US? probably 90% or more LOL
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Old 05-29-06, 11:48 AM   #8
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well. I will add this:

long distances are a factor..it take me a hour to go about 12 miles. sure I could ride full steam at 20 mph..if there were no stop signs..stop lights..didnt use the trail, have a large incline(s)etc.
but 10-12 mph is about what I do comfortably..I finally realize that when I use my bike for transport..to take it easier..as I was doing for fitness..You get there when you get there! So yes time is a big factor..
A 25 mile trip each way becomes a a half-day affair.
Weather- Rain is not fun..and Windy days..much harder to bike..
then the social issues..while some will think your'e cool to bike everywhere..others will think your poor or lost your liscence or think your crazy!
also energy..to bike everywhere you need to maintian proper nutriton and hydration..
then there is preparing..you can't just leave..you have to put on the helmet..load a pannier with stuff or bag..put on riding gloves..check the bike for safety..make sure you have sunblock if sunney..put on rain gear if its raining etc..
so overall its great! minus the weather factor, distance, etc.
a nother to consider..people will stare at you..I am not kidding..not just look but stare at you at lights, while they pass etc..like you are actually rifing a bike on this road! or going to do grocerices..etc!
Also one more thing..sometimes you will get harassment..from cars..stupid people yelling out stuff, or worst things like throwing water or soda at you..this is rare but is a possbitly.
to me being carfree is part of my simple humble life..and with humility comes sacrarfice!
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Old 05-29-06, 11:54 AM   #9
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Long distances are forcing me to no longer be car-free.

I have a 30-mile commute, which isn't SO awful, but the public transportation is very poor, I get off work at 8:15 when it's quite dark, and the motorists in my area don't tend to be too respectful of cyclists.

(I'd live closer to work, but I have to stay at my parents' house because I'm not making enough to live on. And my prospects for getting a new job aren't good, either).
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Old 05-29-06, 01:57 PM   #10
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Can't believe this hasnt been mentioned yet: Decentralisation of cities("suburban sprawl")that neccesitates, no, requires the need of a car to live comfortably(you can argue that the car sparked this trend).

1) Arterial roads: You have to take them to get ANYWHERE. Grid patterns on the other hand gives you alot of alternatives. Arterial roads are designed to have heavy, and fast moving traffic that will intimidate alot of novice cyclist.

2) Distance from ammenities and jobs: it is easier to bike 1 mile than to bike 5-10 miles just to get a gallon of milk, on very car friendly, 40 mph arterial roads and maybe highways at that.

3) Density: it is easier to have a more efficient public transit system that can be very useful for multi-modal trnasportation and ammenities and needs are closer on denser developments. A bad public transportation infrastructure will not help a bicyclist(or a car-reduced person) at all, especially in bad weather. Higher density have the added benefit of ammenities, goods and jobs being muhc, much closer.

4) Segregation and zoning: again, ammenities, services and jobs are far and between.

These factors all lead to a very bike hostile environment. Admit it, if you're an average Joe living in one of these communities, wouldnt you prefer the car over the bike several times over?

All the percieved limitations on a car-free/car-light lifestyle would be greatly reduced, I believe through better("better" means denser, public transit oriented developments to me) city planning at the city governmental-scale and choice at the individual level, so better start planning on moving to denser and more urban areas if you're that serious living car-free. Only you can create the demand.

You have more choice than you realize and not all city center are like Detroit's! If you are still skeptical about living downtown, chaces are, the areas immediately around it(2-5 miles, not 30 miles away!) are still dense enough and they usually have cheaper housing. They also have more choices apart from the condos/apartments more prevalent in Downtown. I'm speaking from experience here. I live in a detached home(the neighboring building is an apratment), but downtown is only 3 miles away and I've been living very car-light.

The poster above me is a very good example of this average Joe/Jane :-)

Last edited by chicbicyclist; 05-29-06 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 05-29-06, 04:34 PM   #11
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When you tried to commute at night, what kind of lights did you use? What kind of reflectors and reflective tape and reflective clothing items did you use?

I don't have any problems in the pre-dawn darkness, none at all. I feel safer than during the day.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillanzea
Long distances are forcing me to no longer be car-free.

I have a 30-mile commute, which isn't SO awful, but the public transportation is very poor, I get off work at 8:15 when it's quite dark, and the motorists in my area don't tend to be too respectful of cyclists.

(I'd live closer to work, but I have to stay at my parents' house because I'm not making enough to live on. And my prospects for getting a new job aren't good, either).
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Old 05-29-06, 05:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kf5nd
When you tried to commute at night, what kind of lights did you use? What kind of reflectors and reflective tape and reflective clothing items did you use?

I don't have any problems in the pre-dawn darkness, none at all. I feel safer than during the day.
Lot less traffic too. I commuted at night for 2 years in the Greensboro, NC area. I wore a basic safety vest with vertical reflective stripes. I had reflective tape wrapped around my rear stays. IIRC I was using whatever the best Cateye lights at the time with rechargable batteries. Two head lights, one aimed low and one aimed further higher. I also used the reflective bands around the legs. Very visible as they are going up and down. Part of the commute was on MUP, the rest on roads.

Aaron
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Old 05-29-06, 09:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsl
Clients not impressed when taken to lunch on a tandem
...or when you show up at a client's on a bike.

This is a BIG, serious one. many clients are no where near public transportation and I've noticed that many of them care less about what you're delivering and more about how you present it - they'd prefer a huge company that does a lot of biz and will overcharge them, make mistakes and take 2x too long, to a small firm or individual who'll do it for less, on time, on spec. They just feel there's more accountability and safety in that big company. Showing up on a bike doesn't work. Too bad.
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Old 05-29-06, 11:31 PM   #14
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From my own experience:

Cars allow us to establish and maintain friendships and relationships over distances and locations that aren't practical to travel by bike, by foot, or by transit.

It's easy to fall into the habit of driving clear across town to save a dollar or even less. And then to stock up and drag home a month's worth of stuff, since it's so much trouble to drive all that way more than once a week, and the store across the street charges $0.50 more for a simple loaf of bread.

Cars make it easy to work at a job that's 30 miles away, and spend only 90 or more minutes driving there and back every day. And that job pays a solid two or three hundred a month more than the one down the street. You'd never be able to afford that new car otherwise.

Most drivers have never walked anywhere, biked anywhere, or used public transit for anything other than novelty, if at all. These things are scary to some people when they're new and unfamiliar! I think it's a "what if" thing: I've never done this before, I don't know how! What if I get stuck? What if I get lost or go the wrong way? How will I drive home?

And I think we're just competetive. If there is an alternate route that will save one of my driving friends three minutes, that's where they'll be. "The bus takes an hour!? I could drive there in thirty minutes!" Driving is usually faster, and seconds count to drivers. Walking and biking redirect that impulse, over time. Sure, I could save several minutes on a trip with maximum effort, but it's usually nicer to set a good pace and be functional when I reach my destination.

I'm in the process of losing those habits.
One of the most helpful things happened recently. My car has been sitting idle for weeks, and hornets have taken up residence inside. I HATE BEES!!!!!!!
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Old 05-30-06, 05:21 AM   #15
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The biggest limiting factors for me are:
Time-If there are a number of places I need to go in a day, there simply may not be time to do it on a bike and take care of whtever else I have going on.

Cargo Capacity-As a private contractor, there are days when I need to carry large and/or a heavy load of tools. Normally I can make one trip in the car carrying the tools I will need for a project, and bike commute the rest of the time, leaving the tools on site. Then pick up the tools at the project's completion.

Weather-To some extent. I won't ride if it's lighting or if the wind is blowing over 30, particularly if it's gusting, but under these conditions I'm not likely to be going to work anyway.
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Old 05-30-06, 07:14 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donrhummy
I've noticed that many of them care less about what you're delivering and more about how you present it
This is especially true in my line of work. I make web sites. Many clients care only about prettiness and wow-factor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by donrhummy
they'd prefer a huge company that does a lot of biz and will overcharge them, make mistakes and take 2x too long, to a small firm or individual who'll do it for less, on time, on spec. They just feel there's more accountability and safety in that big company. Showing up on a bike doesn't work.
It all depends on how you market yourself and to whom. Every one of my clients likes that they deal with the owner, every time they call (or email)--never a flunkie... er, I mean, never an employee who may be here today and gone tomorrow. Even when I sub-contract work, I remain their single point-of-contact and maintain full responsibility for the sub's work.

All of my clients became clients when I used only the bus. They're delighted now that I cycle to their offices, lunches and meetings. (I meet them at the restaurant. The taking them on a tandem thing was a joke.) Since I got my bike, my contact at one client has started some bike commuting. It's only a couple of miles and once or twice a week, but it's a great example given that she's second-in-command of the agency.
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Old 05-30-06, 12:11 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jondoh
The main problem with going car free is time.
This is plain wrong. The title to the post says "Car free lifestyle." not "mimicking car culture on a bicycle". I gained much more time after moving to a compact neighborhood and dumping the car and even more time when I took a job close to home. I live within a 5 minute bike ride of two hardware stores, and can choose from two on my 20minute ride from work. If making multiple daily trips to a particular store is a high priority component of your car free lifestyle, why don't you move closer to that store?

For bicyclists, part of the time savings in a car free lifestyle is exercise time consumed in parallel with transportation time. The car person consumes transportation time sequentially with exercise time so experiences a net loss of time for other activities compared with the bike person.

One of my obese co-workers died at work today of a heart attack. She was 1 year younger than myself. How much time did she loose by choosing to drive everywhere? She told me she hadn't ridden a bike since she was a child. I'd seen her get winded just climbing the stairs. What few irritations a car free lifestyle involves, for me are preferrable to croaking like she did. I'd rather be car free than complain about climbing stairs like most of the car people do.

The main impediment to attaining a car free lifestyle is a personal inability to make decisions and act based on objective facts with respect to; saving time, saving money, improving health and having fun.
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Old 05-30-06, 12:58 PM   #18
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I have to say my current limiting factor that keeps me from going car free are the wife and kids.

My wife is new to cycling (I just bought here her first bike last summer) so she is still getting the hang of riding. She also not partial to riding in inclement conditions.

Also my kids are four and six years old. They are too young to ride with us. We have a trailer but they are quickly out growing (100 lb capacity, the kids are 44 lbs and 54 lb respectively). Although we can get an additional trailer, I doubt my wife will have the confidence to pull one of the kids behind her.

So my current objective is to reduce my use of a car to a level that we can justfy going down to one car this year and indoctrinate my wife into reduing her car use over the next couple of years.
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Old 05-30-06, 01:50 PM   #19
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My 2 cents: after commuting all week, I need to have some rest days or my legs just don't feel good come Monday morning. I want to bike to the grocery store and market, but after 'doing my part' to keep the communting traffic down and try to reduce air pollution, I for the most part don't ride on the weekend.
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Old 05-30-06, 01:56 PM   #20
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Map Tester, check out electric bicycles .You can use them on everyday commutes, and the unpowered bikes on weekend rides.
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Old 05-30-06, 02:25 PM   #21
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OMG, that must've been shocking.

There's another side of this, as you point out. There is a certain amount of time that you MUST spend in physical exercise. For me, it's about an hour a day. Or 15 miles. So, I might as well use those 15 daily mandatory miles to do something / go somewhere useful, right?


Quote:
Originally Posted by gwd
One of my obese co-workers died at work today of a heart attack. She was 1 year younger than myself. How much time did she loose by choosing to drive everywhere? She told me she hadn't ridden a bike since she was a child. I'd seen her get winded just climbing the stairs. What few irritations a car free lifestyle involves, for me are preferrable to croaking like she did. I'd rather be car free than complain about climbing stairs like most of the car people do.

The main impediment to attaining a car free lifestyle is a personal inability to make decisions and act based on objective facts with respect to; saving time, saving money, improving health and having fun.
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Old 05-30-06, 05:45 PM   #22
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Starting in July I will have a once
a month 100 mile round trip
commute on a late Sunday afternoon,
Sunday night and the damned buses
and lightrail don't run that late
through the guts of Los Angeles
and out to Santa Monica that I know
of, plus I am a bit hesitant to ride my
bike through Gang Banger territory
late in the afternoon or evening.

But to be honest, I haven't checked
out ALL the bus schedules yet, so I
will have to do that before I complain
too loud I guess.

But long distance commutes, even on
a once a month basis are tough.

Of course if I sold my car and pocketed
the $200 a month it costs me, I would
have a few more options.
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Old 05-30-06, 06:21 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meldex
I have to say my current limiting factor that keeps me from going car free are the wife and kids.

My wife is new to cycling (I just bought here her first bike last summer) so she is still getting the hang of riding. She also not partial to riding in inclement conditions.

Also my kids are four and six years old. They are too young to ride with us. We have a trailer but they are quickly out growing (100 lb capacity, the kids are 44 lbs and 54 lb respectively). Although we can get an additional trailer, I doubt my wife will have the confidence to pull one of the kids behind her.

So my current objective is to reduce my use of a car to a level that we can justfy going down to one car this year and indoctrinate my wife into reduing her car use over the next couple of years.
My daughter was riding to school when she was 5 years old. It was about 2 miles and dad rode with her to school and her grandpa rode home with her. Rain or Shine! When she and my son were 6 and 7 they both were more than capable of 15-20 mile rides. They both started on single speed BMX bikes and then quickly graduated to multispeed BMX style bikes, then mountain bikes. Both are in their 20's ride regularly and don't own cars.

Aaron
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Old 05-31-06, 06:10 PM   #24
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We live in a city neighborhood, about 4 miles from work, with everything we typcially need within easily bikeable or walkable distances. Why do we need a car?

--Husband plays the double bass as a serious amateur/semi-pro. There's no reasonable way to transport a delicate 6.5 foot tall, $10,000 instrument by bicycle, especially when keeping it functional requires climate control (no extreme temps for the bass). And when he has a performance, he must wear a tuxedo. There's a second strike against cycling on those occasions.

--Traveling long distances to visit family. We don't do this that many times a year, but when we do, we want to bring our large dog, who is not welcome on any sort of public transportation.

Otherwise, we bike to work (except in extremely cold or inclement weather -- this is Minnesota, and I'm just not tough enough to suffer through winter commuting here), and bike/walk to do many errands. When we do take the car out, we try to be smart about it and combine trips.
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Old 05-31-06, 08:37 PM   #25
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Sprawl

Quote:
Originally Posted by chicbicyclist
Can't believe this hasnt been mentioned yet: Decentralisation of cities("suburban sprawl")that neccesitates, no, requires the need of a car to live comfortably(you can argue that the car sparked this trend).
This hit the nail on the head. The only time I was truly car-free was in college, when everything I needed was in walking distance. Sprawl takes the necessities and segregates them, putting pedestrian-and cycle-unfriendly roads in between home/work/shopping.

Suburban sprawl is all about the car. The homes are built with large garages on the front, and a token door that's often up a huge flight of stairs. The roads are built only for cars. No mass-transit is considered at all. The shopping areas are built for cars, with seas of asphalt surrounding each big-box store.

Sprawl eats our land and forces us to be dependent on our automobiles. It's the American Dream, after all.
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